Heavy Oil Mining—An Overview

by Tracy J. Lyman, (A.M.ASCE), Geotechnical Engrg.; Stone & Webster Engrg. Corp., Denver, CO,
Edwin M. Piper, Manager Process Project; Stone & Webster Engrg. Corp., Denver, CO,

Serial Information: Journal of Technical Topics in Civil Engineering, 1985, Vol. 111, Issue 1, Pg. 20-32

Document Type: Journal Paper


Heavy oil mining is a promising technology that may increase ultimate oil recovery from existing reservoirs from 35–40% to 90% of the original oil in place. If successful, mining for heavy oil could effectively double or even triple the quantity of oil recovered from the known resources in the United States and throughout the world. Current estimates of these known world resources are several thousand billion barrels. Three mining methods appear to offer technical feasibility for heavy oil recovery: surface extractive mining, underground extractive mining and underground mining for access. These three methods have been attempted in several projects worldwide during the past century, and have demonstrated the technical feasibility of each method. Each project has failed economically in the past due to competition from oil produced from traditional surface wells. Successful implementation of the theories behind heavy oil production using mining techniques will require the cooperation of several diverse disciplines including petroleum geology, petroleum engineering, mining engineering, civil engineering and environmental sciences.

Subject Headings: Feasibility studies | Project management | Petroleum | Non-renewable energy | Reservoirs | Recycling | Economic factors | Competition | United States

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